Monday, July 31, 2006

Sorry World

YNET News's Guy Benyovits, on the world's reaction to what happened at Qana:
The British tie-wearing commentator set at the studio, wearing an expression of well made-up revulsion, while displaying the screaming newspaper headlines. All of Europe is united today, so it seems, in the opinion that all of us – all Israelis – are guilty over what is characterized as "the second Qana massacre."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz have apologized. So did the defense minister, and this even before an investigation was carried out, before the whole truth came to light. Because that's the way we are.

It is not my place to stand by their side at this time, but with your permission I would like to add a few apologies of my own, the day after the bombing.

Sorry, world. Sorry for again being bad, and barbaric, and pulverizing. Sorry for again realizing your wild anti-Semitic fantasy, to view us as a real thorn in the flesh of the Middle East, not to mention the entire world.

And all this so that next time there's a bloody terror attack in Spain, Britain, or anywhere else, you can self-righteously sigh and "understand" the motives, because after all the Israelis are at fault for everything.

"It's not us," you'll utter with glee, "it's them." They were the ones who actually also sent the Americans to Iraq, no? They have some group there of the Elders of Zion, which rules the world. We read it somewhere.
Read the whole thing.

Breaking Russia

RFE/RL has an interview with Inna Khodorkovskaya, wife of the imprisoned Russian businessman:
Khodorkovsky is now incarcerated in a prison camp deep in Siberia. Inna is permitted to visit once every three months. But getting there is a major effort in itself: a nine-hour flight, followed by a 15-hour train journey, followed by a 40-minute car ride.

She is allowed to stay with her husband for three days in a prison hostel that some Russian papers suggest borders on the luxurious. In fact, she insists, they share a simple room furnished with a bed, a chair and a cupboard.

Khodorkovskaya finds her husband much changed -- a consequence, she says, of the psychological, and sometimes physical pressure he is subjected to.

"They raise the pressure, then they reduce it and then they raise it again. So there's no straight upward line, they're just trying to drain him.""They're trying to break him, nothing more, nothing less," she says of the prison authorities. "These are methods that have probably long been worked on and refined. I would say that it works on the principle of amplitude. They raise the pressure, then they reduce it and then they raise it again. So there's no straight upward line, they're just trying to drain him."

His biggest difficulty, she says, is the isolation and the mental vacuum caused by his inactivity. But he is finding other ways to fill the gap.

"He reads a lot of religious literature. He's not a religious fanatic, he's not completely mad about religion," she says. "His interest is analytical. He doesn't push faith away, but he has begun to experience it in a new way. If before he approached the subject from a sort of historical point of view, now he feels closer to it."

Khodorkovskaya says she has no doubt that her husband is a political prisoner, sentenced to satisfy the ambitions of the men who now rule the Kremlin.

Pictures That Damn

The Australian newspaper Herald Sun has published photographs taken by a journalist and smuggled out of Lebanon by an Australian citizen, which show Hezbollah waging war in the middle of a residential suburban area of Beirut.
The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.

"Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets," he said.

"Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated.

"It was carnage. Two innocent people died in that incident, but it was so lucky it was not more."


The only thing that is disproportionate – and grotesquely, obscenely so – is the way in which so many in Britain and the west are determined to prevent Israel from defending itself against this terrible threat. And in doing so they fail to see that how gravely it threatens themselves, too. If Israel loses this fight against Iran’s proxy, those western imbeciles will have handed Iran and Islamist fascism a stunning victory against the entire free world. Every poisonous distortion in the British media brings that dreadful outcome one step nearer.

Melanie Phillips, on the media campaign against Israel.

Softly, Softly

The Kremlin has kept a rather low profile during the last few weeks of tension in the Middle East. In EDM, Pavel K. Baev examines Moscow's position, and sees it as an extension of Russia's traditional Middle East policy, which is now evolving once again, as during the Cold War, into a game of posing as "mediator", while in reality aiming to sidestep and weaken the power of the United States. This time, however, Baev believes, Moscow plans to play big, taking advantage of U.S. weakness in Iraq, and striking out with an independent Middle East policy of its own:
Three weeks after the eruption of hostilities in Lebanon, Russia has remained uncharacteristically cautious and reserved. President Vladimir Putin took a very active stance in the debates on the conflict at the July 15-17 G-8 summit in St. Petersburg and claimed credit for “softening” the joint statement in such a way that Syria was not mentioned, which prompted a few acrimonious “off-the-record” comments by U.S. President George W. Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair (Vremya novostei, July 18). A central point in Putin’s message was that the G-8 should not try to allocate blame or advance an initiative, because management of this conflict properly belongs with the UN Security Council. In the Security Council, however, Russia assumed a rather low profile giving ample chance for the United States to fall into the usual trap of having to veto a resolution condemning Israeli actions and then leaving it to France to outrun Washington in proposing a draft resolution on the plan for resolving the crisis (, July 30).

The coverage of the ongoing combat operations in the Russian media has remained remarkably balanced, so that interviews with outspoken Israeli Ambassador to Russia Arkady Milman appear as often as rather graphic reporting from Beirut (Izvestiya, Moskovskie novosti, July 28). Demonstrations in Moscow were of such miniscule scale that only the Iranian press agency noticed them (IRNA, July 21). The official line has been formulated in particularly diplomatic words, and, when holding a meeting with Saud Al-Faisal, foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Putin chose to emphasize, “The state of Israel has the right to and should live in security.” These words were interpreted in Israel, perhaps optimistically, as “a strong message of friendship” (Jerusalem Post, July 27). What was certainly more significant in this context was the publication by the FSB of Russia’s list of 17 terrorist organizations; the omission of Hamas and Hezbollah was explained by the lack of any threats to Russia’s security on their part (Rossiiskaya gazeta, July 28).

Such a position invites accusations of applying “double standards” and being egoistically selective in the global war against terrorism (see EDM, July 20). Moscow shrugs off such “insinuations” without even bothering to refer to selfish motives in the contributions of other partners in the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition. There is more to this self-confidence than just the gradually accumulated knowledge that politics is not only the art of possible, but also the science of applying the right standards to different conflicts. It is based on the newly arrived certainty that Russia’s own long and painful war with terror has been finally brought to a decisive victory with the death of Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev (Expert, July 17). There is still the unresolved business with the extradition of Akhmed Zakaev from the U.K., but it is more about tidying up the last loose ends of the irritating problem (, July 26).

Moscow’s self-confidence is also supported by the assessment of the conflict dynamics in the Middle East that suggest a very probable strengthening of its quietly advanced position in a matter of a few weeks. This position is by no means moral but entirely pragmatic: No international framework for Lebanon could be negotiated without involving Syria; no agreement with the government of Lebanon could be implemented if Hezbollah is not a part of it; no stable arrangement for Gaza could be hammered out against the resistance of Hamas. The Kremlin calculates that it would take a few weeks for Israel to recognize that the spectacular devastation of Southern Lebanon could not significantly weaken the military capabilities and political influence of Hezbollah, much the same way as the full-blown invasion in 1982 did not bring about the destruction of the PLO. Meanwhile, the outrage in the Arab states and the indignation in Europe about the scale of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe would predictably reach such levels that a ceasefire becomes imperative whatever reservations Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might state. That is why Moscow was not in the least upset by the failure of the Rome conference last week, where Syria was not represented, expecting that the forum would be reconvened when Washington is forced to swallow its objections against sitting at one table with a representative from Damascus

These assessments go significantly further than just reserving for itself a role of mediator who is on speaking terms with all parties to the conflict and can “sell” them the plan developed by “great powers.” Back in July 2000, Putin arrived at the G-8 summit in Okinawa full of enthusiasm after visiting Pyongyang and announced that he had secured a nuclear deal with North Korea, which in a few days fell apart as a “misunderstanding.” After the unquestionable triumph at this year’ G-8 summit, Putin does not want to be a messenger of any kind; the ambition now is for playing a major and independent role in the Middle East. As Dmitri Trenin pointed out, this claim is underpinned by the conclusion that the flawed U.S. intervention in Iraq has already failed and the inevitable retreat would deeply undermine Western influence across the region (, July 27). The present-day military overstretch reduces NATO’s ability to deploy a meaningful peacekeeping force in Lebanon, while Russia, facing only limited residual tasks in Chechnya, could usefully contribute a couple of battalions and not worry much about putting the troops in harm’s way.

It is quite clear that these ambitions are not limited to advancing narrowly defined “national interests”; for that matter, the value of arms that Russia sells to Syria is pitifully low compared with exports to China or even the new deals signed with Venezuela. Fundamentally, Russia’s interests in the Middle East are focused on keeping oil prices as high as possible, and the deepening disaster in Iraq is taking care of that. Putin now wants to experience the thrill of a big political game where he does not even need to play against the United States, but could take advantage of its every misstep.


There will not be a full ceasefire until the proposed UN stabilization force is in place. Of the 48-hour suspension of air activity, Stratfor notes that
This does not halt ground operations. The end of air attacks is subject to Israel's interpretation of Hezbollah's actions. It is not clear at this moment that this is as significant as it might appear. It depends partly on Hezbollah's actions and partly on Israel's intentions. Forces that we think are moving forward are exempt from this cease-fire, and may or may not have to move without air support.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Qana - II

The latest Stratfor special report on the Lebanon conflict considers that a major shift appears to be taking part in the war. It points to an engagement in wider and more intense ground operations, and the report speculates that Israeli forces may soon go beyond southern Lebanon. In particular, the report focuses on Qana:
There are reports of new areas involved in fighting and new Israeli units being engaged. For example, Israeli forces are now fighting in the area of Qana. This is a few miles southeast of Tyre and deep into southern Lebanon. We have heard that the Qana action consists of engineers, armor and infantry, indicating a more traditional combined arms effort. The engineers would be clearing mines, bulldozing fortifications and clearing roads damaged by Israeli airstrikes. Infantry would be clearing the area of anti-tank teams and opening the way for broader armored thrusts to destroy rear infrastructure and isolate forward Hezbollah positions. There are additional reports of engagements near and to the west of the Israeli panhandle in the Dan-Dafna-Metulla region, along with heavy artillery fire in this region. This would be the jump-off point for an attack both westward along the Litani and northward into the Bekaa Valley. There were extensive reports of a major armored buildup in this area over the past 48 hours. This would also explain the decision to disengage temporarily at Bent Jbail in preparation for the new phase of operations.
The information available to Stratfor says that the attacking force at Qana is from the IDF's Nahal Division, which is apparently involved in a westward movement which would take it through the village of Taibe - a critical location, and one that would be needed for any move north into the Bekaa Valley.


From the Jerusalem Post:
Some 150 rockets were fired from the Lebanese village of Qana over the past 20 days, Air Force Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel said on Sunday evening.

Speaking to reporters, Eshel added that Hizbullah rocket launchers were hidden in civilian buildings in the village. He proceeded to show video footage of rocket launchers being driven into the village following launches.
And from YNET News:
An IDF investigation has found that the building in Qana struck by the Air Force fell around eight hours after being hit by the IDF.

"The attack on the structure in the Qana village took place between midnight and one in the morning. The gap between the timing of the collapse of the building and the time of the strike on it is unclear," Brigadier General Amir Eshel, Head of the Air Force Headquarters told journalists at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, following the incidents at Qana.

Eshel and the head of the IDF's Operational Branch, Major General Gadi Eisnkot said the structure was not being attacked when it collapsed, at around 8:00 in the morning.

The IDF believes that Hizbullah explosives in the building were behind the explosion that caused the collapse.

Another possibility is that the rickety building remained standing for a few hours, but eventually collapsed. "It could be that inside the building, things that could eventually cause an explosion were being housed, things that we could not blow up in the attack, and maybe remained there, Brigadier General Eshel said.
A video of Hizbullah using Qana residents as human shields can be seen here. Via GIYUS.ORG

GJARN Petition

The Global Jewish Assistance Relief Network (GJARN) is organizing a petition to bring home to Israel Corporal Gilad Shalit and reserve soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were abducted by Hizbullah and are being held hostage on enemy territory.

The petition can be signed here.

Khodorkovsky Family Face Eviction

It looks as though the Khodorkovsky family face eviction from their home in the Moscow suburbs, RFE/RL notes:
Inna Khodorkovskaya, Khodorkovsky's wife, told RFE/RL's Russian Service in a July 25 interview that authorities in May froze a housing complex in the Moscow suburb of Zhukovka where Khodorkovsky and other former executives of the Yukos oil company he founded have homes.

Khodorkovskaya said the authorities did not explain the action.

Chavez in Iran

RFE/RL July 29, 2006 -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said at the start of a two-day visit to Tehran that Venezuela will stand behind Iran in "every time and occasion and under every circumstance."

Routinization and Strategy

Stratfor's latest analysis of the Lebanon conflict concludes that the war is becoming routinized:
Israeli aircraft fly daily air strikes in Lebanon. Hezbollah rockets strike at Israel. Ground combat takes place among small units just north of the Israeli-Lebanese border. It is a situation that appears, on the surface, to have settled into a sustainable routine. Neither side is clearly making military progress; neither side is under military compulsion to end hostilities; neither side appears to be changing the military equation. Such a war can continue for a long time from a military standpoint. The political dimension determines what happens next. That can range from indefinite continuation of the current pattern of conflict, to an attempt by one side to change the pattern in some decisive way, or the suspension of conflict by means of a political resolution.
Continuing some reflections from earlier reports, the analysis considers that an unconditional cease-fire - also now sought by the Lebanese government - would suit the forces of Hizbullah, which "can't do better than it is doing now", though it will not invade Israel and will at some point be worn down by the continuous Israeli air attacks. Israel, on the other hand, has not achieved its strategic goals in the conflict, and has suffered some political losses. There appears to be some uncertainty about the effectiveness of the air campaign, and an ambivalence shown in the mobilization of ground reserves coupled with official assertions that no ground campaign is planned. Whether the uncertainty is due to an intelligence failure, to correct intelligence of the enemy's capabilities, or to apprehensions about the costs of an occupation of Lebanon, there is little doubt that the current situation, in which Hizbullah has achieved a military draw and a certain political advantage, cannot be allowed to continue.

A perception is gaining sway in the Arab world that the IDF may after all not be invincible - this, in the aftermath of Israeli withdrawals after relatively large casualties were sustained by Israeli troops. If this perception gains wider credibility, it will profoundly affect the political landscape in the Middle East. Israel needs to go on fighting, for any cease-fire now would be immensely damaging to it politically. Given the fact that a widening of the war is simply not an option, and that Israel has neither the reach for Iran nor the will to occupy Syria, Israel
must, given its options, try to inflict a decisive defeat on Hezbollah, and a cease-fire would deny Israel that opportunity. The political effect on the region would be dramatic. It may well be that the Israelis have no appetite for casualties or counterinsurgency. It may be that their view of Hezbollah is that it is more an irritant than a threat. Nevertheless, the current evolution of this conflict forces them to make some dramatic decisions.

We note that the war is routinized. That should not be taken as proof that more dramatic events are not being planned. If it turns out that Israel declines major ground operations and accepts a cease-fire, the political map of the region -- geographically and psychologically -- would change decisively and to Israel's massive disadvantage. Thus we must assume that with cease-fires approaching and no decision on the ground, Israel will shift its strategy.
This latest Stratfor report was, of course, issued before today's cancellation by the Lebanese government of Secretary of State Rice's visit to Beirut.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bush on Chechnya

From Chechen Society Newspaper, No. 16 (81), July 25, 2006.

(my tr.)

George Bush: "The fate of the people of Chechnya is a matter of deep concern to the people of America"

The very first official event on Russian soil to have the participation of U.S. President George Bush, who had arrived in Petersburg to take part in the G8 summit, was his meeting with representatives of Russian civil society. On July 14 activists of the most varying orientations - from human rights to ecology - told Bush about Russia’s problems. The subject of Chechnya also came up at the meeting, were it was discussed by the director of the “Demos” human rights centre, Tatyana Lokshina. Timur Aliyev reports.

-Tanya, how did you come to be in such company? How were the participants selected for this meeting with Bush?

On July 7 I got a phone call from the American Embassy asking me what I was doing on the 14th. Tired after the "Citizens’ G8", I said I going to the Caucasus. "If you can revise your plans, George Bush would like to meet you,” they told me. "What kind of meeting will it be?" I asked. "It will be a round table with young activists of civil society,” they replied. “We’ve already held one in Turkey." It’s true that they immediately qualified this by saying that the representatives of Russian authorities who were organizing the G8 Summit were opposed to the plan. Already a month before the summit, Russian “sherpa” Igor Shuvalov had said that the Russian leadership would not want its partners to hold meetings of this kind within the framework of the G8.

As a result I only went to Chechnya for a week and then, interrupting my visit, left for St Petersburg.

- Who else was at this round table?

Only 15-20 people. Mainly, apart from Yasina, Chestin and myself, they were beneficiaries of USAID grant programs or participants in IREX education programs. Masha Gaidar from the youth movements was there, there was a representative of the St. Petersburg organization "Doctors to Children", Svetlana from “Prospect” (they help disabled people to obtain education), two young regional lads from the “Voice” Association for the defence of the rights of electors, Ivan Pavlov from the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information, and some others.

- And from the Americans, who was present?

Officially - only George Bush and the US ambassador to Russia, William Burns. They were seated in the presidium. Unofficially, but de facto, there were Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Barry Lowenkrohn, Bush’s adviser on Russia and the Caucasus Tom Graham, and the US President’s press secretary. They sat against the wall. Rice was directly behind me.

- Were there any Russian officials?

No, there weren’t. Only people from NGOs.

-What was the meeting like?

We waited for Bush for about one and a half hours. During that time we were told about the "rules of etiquette" in the presence of the President of the USA – how to greet him and how to get up.

Then Bush entered the room, loping along with a sort of springy gait, and he said: "Hello. I’m George Bush."

We sat down at the U-shaped table, Bush in the centre, Irina Yasina on his left and the ambassador on his right. And Bush said he was glad to see young people here who to him looked like children, that the future of Russian democracy depended on young people, that it was very important for him to hear us before his private meeting with Putin.

Then Bush said that in this connection he had to stress that Putin was his friend, and that he respected him, since Putin had two daughters and that he, Bush, also had two daughters of 24, and that he understood it was very important for Putin that everything should be okay in the family, and consequently that everything should be okay in Russia too.

After that, Irina Yasina, director of the charity "Open Russia", was asked to speak first. She said that when she was young, perestroika had started, and she had had many hopes, but 21 years had passed and now democratic institutions were falling apart, there was no freedom in the business world or the justice system. Then she went on to talk about Khodorkovsky and Svetlana Bakhmina, said that with the introduction of the new law on non-profit organizations all the groups that had not yet been closed down would be closed down, and she asked for help. And when she mentioned the fact that after the closure of "Open Russia" they now called themselves "’Closed’ Open Russia ", Bush laughed for a long time.

- When you did start to talk about Chechnya?

After the discussion moved to the new law on non-profit organizations, Bush himself turned to me and asked me what I thought about it. I replied that it was a real problem, that the Rosregistratsiya officials were saying in private conversations that organizations that don’t deal with political matters will not he closed down, that the criteria had been eroded and that this affected all the people, for example, who were now in this room.

Then Bush asked - "Who are you, and what do you do?" A bit angry now about the talk of “children”, I replied "I’m so-and-so, I do this and that, I’ve just arrived from the Chechen Republic". "Straight from Chechnya?" – Bush asked in astonishment. "No, I changed trains in Moscow", I said. "I see," he said.

Then I handed him an envelope containing two photos I’d earlier printed out from the Memorial website, and opened it One of the photographs was of Rigakhoy, showing the corpses of children and one small boy running against the background of a ruined house. The other showed the view from a hill, horses, a kind of Chechen Switzerland. I explained to Bush - "You said a lot about children, well, here is a Chechen mountain farm, In 2004 it was bombed, six children and their mother were killed, and no one has been punished for it."

I went on to say: "I am often asked why I go there. But I reply that as a Christian and as a Russian I can’t look at this calmly." And to him: "I think that you as a Christian will also not be indifferent.”

Then I passed on to the situation in general: "Terrorism is a huge problem and it must be fought. But sometimes the side effects of counter-terrorist measures are counter-productive. I don’t know how that balance is kept in Iraq, there’s simply no information, but in the Caucasus and in Chechnya – it’s a big negative. In Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, where there has been no war, the actions of the law enforcement agencies have provoked an increase in terrorism.".

-And what was Bush's reply?

He nodded, wrote something in his notebook, said he agreed that in Russia there's a problem with security. But you must understand that in Iraq we’re supporting democracy. And he went on - "Recently the US Supreme Court took a decision on Guantanamo Bay and we will carry out that decision – a law is a law".

I turned to him again: "The new generation of terrorists in Chechnya is motivated not by separatism or radical Islam, but by personal revenge. And although you are partners with Russia in the war against terror, these facts need to be analysed too."

Bush’s reply was: "My friend Vladimir and I are going to discuss all these problems." And he continued: "The fate of the people of Chechnya is a matter of deep concern to the people of America. The United States are ready to help, taking into consideration the Chechen people’s sufferings,” and so on.

-What happened then?

Bush spent several minutes talking to each person. Of course, it was his conversation with Irina Yasina that lasted longest - some fifteen minutes – she was first, after all. But the others too were able to say to him what they wanted. For the last five minutes the journalists who had been accredited for the event were let into the room, and Bush told them he was happy.

- Tanya, what do you think, did this meeting produce any result? Was it written about in the newspapers?

The information output was completely “wild”. During that day the entire Western press wrote about nothing else. I left the room at 5.30 and gave my story over the telephone until 9.30 – until I got on the plane. Two of the details were written about – the photos I had shown and Bush’s statement about the American people’s concern.

Logging the Bias

Tom Gross's Mideast Media Analysis keeps a file documenting MSM news reports on the present conflict in Lebanon that show an open anti-Israeli bias. The sources range from left to right, covering most areas of the political spectrum. Some recent examples:

1. Olmert as “Nazi commander in Schindler’s list”
2. Nobel Prize for what?
3. Is Kofi Annan listening?
4. “Disproportionate”
5. CNN’s senior reporter admits Hizbullah “had control” of his footage
6. Et tu, Telegraph?
7. No respect
8. The BBC: A hammer to whack Israel
9. BBC News supporting anti-Israel protests
10. Suzanne Goldenberg returns
(via Melanie Phillips)

Mystery Illness in Chechnya

From Prague Watchdog, a new PW/RFE/RL broadcast on a Chechnya-related issue that doesn't go away (my tr.):

July 28th 2006

Following is a part of programme broadcast by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty's North Caucasus Service on June 27, 2006. For more programmes see (in Russian only).

Authorities to give disabled status to Shelkovsky district children affected by strange illness

Baudi Martanov, presenter: While the republic’s authorities are occupied with politics, declaring an amnesty and making statements about Putin’s third term, the residents of Chechnya are living with the problems that have appeared as a result of those politics and the war. One of the problems is a previously unknown illness which has affected children in Shelkovsky district. The local authorities now intend to give twenty children of the group disabled status. However, it’s not known what name will be given to the illness when the documents are drawn up. Suryana Martanova reports:

Suryana Martanova: Of the more than one hundred children who contracted the unknown illness in Shelkovsky district back in December, it’s these twenty who are in the most serious condition. Doctors still don’t know what illness will appear on the official papers when they’re ready.

Last year, schoolchildren in five villages of Shelkovsky district fell ill. They were mainly girls, and a few teachers. The first village where the illness appeared was the village of Starogladkovskaya, where several girls fainted at a school parade. After being brought round, they experienced nausea, weakness of the legs, panic attacks and crying for no reason. Similar cases were subsequently recorded in four other villages. And by mid-December some 80 people had been admitted to various hospitals in the republic suffering from the same symptoms.

The doctors thought it was food poisoning and began to treat the patients accordingly. However, by late December the number of people affected by the illness exceeded 100. The analyses sent to neighbouring republics gave no answer to the question of what the illness was. A team of doctors headed by Zurab Kikabidze, deputy director of the Serbsky psychiatric hospital, arrived from Moscow. They stated that no toxic substances were found, and that consequently the children’s illness originated in the stress caused by military operations. The doctors concluded that it had a psychological basis, and resembled asthma.

After this, the children were rushed to various sanatoria in the North Caucasus. An official statement appeared in the public media, saying that the children felt well. No further announcements about their condition were forthcoming. Zinaida Magomadova, deputy head of the Chechen Parliament’s Committee of Public Health has stated that the problem has not been solved, and is being hushed up by the authorities. According to her, the children are still suffering from the illness, pointing to the fact that it is unlikely to have a psychological basis, while the injections of dimedrol and other medications are of no benefit – some of the children still lack sensation in their legs.

Suryana Martanova, Radio Liberty, Chechnya.

The transcript, and its translation into Russian, were made jointly by Prague Watchdog and Radio Liberty. English translation by David McDuff.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A War of Survival

Avraham Tal, in Haaretz:
Contrary to what the critics are arguing, the IDF is not fighting a small guerrilla organization. It is dealing with a trained, skilled, well-organized, highly motivated infantry that is equipped with the cream of the crop of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia and China, and which is very familiar with the territory on which it is fighting. In such a showdown, even when you have tanks and fighter planes, the going is very slow, and, sadly, you must also pay a heavy price in terms of casualties.

One of the claims being made by critics is that Israel is serving the interests of "American imperialism," and that our children are shedding their blood in the name of those interests. Is there no limit to malicious cynicism? There is a genuine congruence of Israeli and American interests in the war against world terrorism. Without America's political, economic, military and moral support, Israel would never have been capable of waging its war of survival against the evil axis of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and in the face of an indifferent world.

Moscow: Hamas and Hizbullah "Not Terrorists"

Russia's Foreign Ministry does not consider Hamas and Hizbullah to be terrorist organizations.

This is made clear by the publication in Rossiyskaya Gazeta of a list of 17 terrorist organizations recognized as such by Russia's Supreme Court. writes that Yury Sapunov, the FSB's head of counter-terrorism, explains the omission of Hamas and Hizbullah from the list by stating that "firstly,not all states acknowledge these organizations as terrorist, and secondly, their activity is not directed at the overthrow of the constitutional order in Russia and they are not connected with North Caucasus extremists." [my tr.]

MosNews has a report in English here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Polish City To Help Israeli Children

From the JP:

In a highly symbolic gesture of friendship, the central Polish city of Lodz has offered to host a group of 15 youngsters from northern Israel for a two-week vacation in Poland to give them a respite from the war in the North, Polish officials said Thursday.

Russia Guilty in ECHR Case

Something of a breakthrough appears to have been achieved at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Russia has been found to be responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of a Chechen man, Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, in a case brought by his mother, Fatima Bazorkina. The Russian state's guilt has been established. From the ruling:

The presumed death of Mr Yandiyev

The Court recalled that detained persons were in a vulnerable position and that the authorities were under a duty to protect them. The obligation on the authorities to account for the treatment of a detained individual was particularly stringent where that individual died or disappeared after being taken into police custody.

The Court observed that it was undisputed that Mr Yandiyev was detained during a counter-terrorist operation in the village of Alkhan-Kala on 2 February 2000. It further took into account the videotape and numerous witness statements contained in the criminal investigation file confirming that he was interrogated by a senior military officer who, at the end of the interrogation, said that he should be executed. It finally noted that there had been no reliable news of the applicant’s son since that date.

In the absence of any plausible explanation submitted by the Russian Government, and taking into account that no information has come to light concerning his whereabouts for more than six years, the Court was satisfied that Mr Yandiyev had to be presumed dead following unacknowledged detention. Noting that the authorities did not rely on any ground of justification in respect of use of lethal force by their agents, it followed that liability is attributable to the Russian Government. Accordingly, the Court found that there had been a violation of Article 2.
The judgment sets an important precedent, as more than 200 cases of grave human rights abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya are currently under consideration by the court.

Why The UN Post Was Bombed

lgf links to the blog of Australian journalist Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun:
Read the UNIFIL press releases for yourself to learn that Hezbollah has not just shot at and seriously wounded UNIFIL observers - without any protest from Kofi Annan or The Age. You’ll also learn that UNIFIL has repeatedly reported Israeli shelling and bombing near UNIFIL outposts because Hezbollah fighters were shooting from right beside them.

Illusion and Reality

Judging from the reactions on the Arab street, there are still too many young Arabs who sincerely believe that Israel can be eliminated. Throughout the Arab and Islamic world, hatred for Israel is so immense today that, if given the chance, tens of thousands of women and men would join Hamas and Hizbullah almost immediately.

But for now, most of the anger on the Arab street is being directed against corrupt monarchs and presidents, many of whom are seen as obstacles on the road to launching a full-scale war against Israel.

Khaled Abu Toameh, writing in the Jerusalem Post about how the Arab world views the present conflict in Lebanon.

Changing Track

Mikael Storsjö writes that the Russian authorities have apparently changed track in their persistent attempts to have Akhmed Zakayev extradited from the UK to face trial in Russia.

Instead of branding him as a terrorist, they are now accusing him of expressing opinions about current political issues which run counter to those of the Russian State. The charges now go along these lines:

“During June-July this year Russian citizen Zakayev who is staying in the territory of the UK gave several interviews to various mass media where he made statements to the effect ‘to expel the Russians from Chechnya,’ ‘throw out the Russians,’ ‘inhumane methods of the Russian aggressors,’ and so on and so forth,” representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office pointed out.

“These statements contain the signs of incitement of hatred and animosity towards persons of Russian nationality, form a negative thnic stereotype - bad image of the Russians.”

As Mikael points out, the Russian authorities seem to have forgotten that expressing opinions critical of or hostile to the government of the day is not yet a crime in democratic societies.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


In a move to placate the groundswell of anti-Israel - and anti-American - public opinion in Britain, the British foreign secretary Margaret Beckett has protested to the US about its use of Prestwick Airport near Glasgow to transport bombs to Israel for its fight against Hizbullah in Lebanon.

It looks as though someone wants to cause problems for Prime Minister Blair on his visit to meet President Bush at the weekend.

UNIFIL: Hizbullah Used Observers As Human Shields

According to a UNIFIL press release, Hizbullah has been using UN observation posts and their staff as human shields:
Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah side last night. The round did not explode, and there were no casualties or material damage. Another 5 incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side were reported yesterday. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri. All UNIFIL positions remain occupied and maintained by the troops.
(via lgf)

Why Israel Was Not Invited

Watching the press conference after the international crisis meeting on Lebanon today, one might have wondered why there was no representative of Israel on the platform. The explanation appears to be that pressure from Arab states led to the withholding of an invitation to Israel.

As Israeli vice premier Shimon Peres has pointed out, this was a mistake.

Metastizing Missiles - II

From today's RFE/RL Newsline:

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov, who is a senior envoy to the Middle East, told Syrian leaders in Damascus recently that Moscow does not want them to use Russian-made missiles to retaliate if Israel attacks Syria, Reuters reported from Damascus on July 25, citing unnamed diplomatic sources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 20, 21, and 24, 2006). The news agency quoted one diplomat as saying that "Saltanov told them Syria can use Russian antiaircraft missiles to thwart Israeli air attacks, but that Russia objected to using Russian Scuds to retaliate." A second diplomat added that "the Russians don't want their missiles to hit Israeli cities. Syria, however, has more advanced North Korean missiles." Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Syria has diversified its sources of arms beyond Russia to include China and North Korea. It reportedly has a large arsenal of surface-to-surface missiles. PM

The Problem of the UN

...Annan heads an organization that is so anti-Israel that as the late Abba Eban, the early Israeli ambassador to the UN, once put it: "If Algeria proposed a resolution that the Earth was flat and that Israel has flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 120 to 3, with 27 abstentions."
Alan Dershowitz, on how the UN legitimizes terrorists.

Two Reactions

In Britain, rampant anti-Americanism and hatred of Israel prevent many from understanding just what is at stake in the Lebanon crisis. But something is nevertheless shifting in Britain. There are now two reactions running simultaneously alongside each other. On the one hand, hatred of Israel — particularly among the educated classes —has reached an unprecedented pitch of hysterical distortion, even by the degraded standards of the past six dismaying years. But on the other hand, a heartening number of citizens who are neither Jews nor evangelical Christians — until now, the only constituencies which have defended Israel against the collective libels and scapegoating— are now saying that they support Israel in this great battle, that they understand very well that it is the front line against an Islamic threat that menaces all of us, and that they are astounded by the savage distortions of the BBC and other media.

Melanie Phillips, on some signs of hope - amidst many signs of its opposite - for a change in British public attitudes towards Israel in the present conflict,and hence a movement towards a clearer understanding of what the conflict is actually about.

Putin and Ahmadinejad Confer

Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have held a discussion on the Middle East crisis and the tensions over Iran's nuclear program, AP reports from Moscow.

Meanwhile, the manner and wording of Annan's response to the deaths of four UN observers at a UN post in Southern Lebanon gives the impression that he does not consider a peaceful resolution of the conflict as one of his priorities. This is not an auspicious start to the crisis talks in Rome.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Defeating Hizbullah

Stratfor analyst George Friedman's assessment of the current state of Israel's strategy in the present conflict focuses on Israel's stated goal - the destruction of Hizbullah.

He writes that if Israel can bring the conflict to an end without making any political concessions, Israel will have won.

Metastizing Missiles

As missiles continue to rain down on Israel from Lebanon, in JWR Frank J.Gaffney Jr. discusses the burgeoning missile threat throughout the world, in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, China, and - Russia:
Vladimir Putin has personally helped market new Russian spiraling and maneuvering missile reentry vehicle technology as breakthroughs that will allow attackers to defeat American missile defenses. He has also presided personally over simulated massive nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missile strikes on the United States. George W. Bush deserves great credit for putting an end to the insane policy he inherited of leaving the United States absolutely vulnerable to ballistic missile attack. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that codified that vulnerability and he began deploying limited missile defenses, mostly ground-based ones in Alaska and California.

"Strategic Alliance" - II

Just in case there was any doubt: the "strategic alliance" is a Chávez-Belarus pact against the United States.

RFE/RL has more details here.

Just in case there was any doubt: the "strategic alliance" is a Chávez-Belarus pact against the United States.

RFE/RL has more details here.

Update: from the Newsline, July 26:


President Hugo Chavez arrived in Volgograd from Belarus on July 25 at the start of a three-day visit that is expected to yield a $1 billion deal for at least 24 Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and a good deal of anti-American rhetoric, the Moscow daily "Kommersant" reported on July 26 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 20 and 22, 2006, and "Russia :Chavez To Seal Arms Deal,", July 25, 2006). Chavez elivered an impromptu speech from the balcony of city hall, which began with "Long live Lenin" and went on to hail "Volgograd, [President] Putin, and the Russian government." Chavez's schedule on the first day of his visit included meetings with LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov and Dmitry Pumpyansky, who is chairman of the board of TMK, which makes steel pipes for oil and gas transport. Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Alexis Navarro Rojas told the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina on June 15 in connection with Chavez's trip that Venezuela is dependent on foreign companies for 87 percent of its exports of hydrocarbons. He added that "our country wants to solve this problem." Navarro told reporters in Moscow on June 21 that his country would welcome Gazprom's participation in constructing a planned 8,000-kilometer gas pipeline to Argentina. Carlos Mendoza, who was Navarro's predecessor and is now an adviser to Venezuela's Central Bank, told the "San Francisco Chronicle" of July 23 that unnamed Russian companies are investing "heavily" in Venezuela's oil and gas fields. He added that "Russia is a key element of Venezuela's ambitions to become a global player on many levels." PM


Venezuelan President Chavez cancelled planned visits to several Volgograd-area arms actories on July 25 "because he was running late," the daily "Kommersant" reported on July 26. On July 26, he toured arms factories in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, which is a major weapons-producing center and home of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, Interfax reported. Russia's Rosoboroneksport arms exporter already plans to supply Chavez with 100,000 AK-103 Kalashnikovs, which Washington and some Latin American countries fear will be used to consolidate his rule at home and export trouble to Colombia and throughout the region. Chavez said in Izhevsk on July 26 that he will sign an agreement with President Putin on July 27 to build a factory in Venezuela to make Kalashnikovs under license, which would be the first such plant in the Western Hemisphere. On July 25 in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that "we've repeatedly talked to the Russian government that the arms purchases planned by Venezuela exceeded its defensive needs and are not helpful in terms of regional stability," international news agencies reported. "I think on this issue, we've got a very clear opinion and we certainly hope that the Russians will reconsider this sale because we don't think it's in the best interest of Russia or Venezuela," he added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 19, 2006). PM

Putin in $1bn Arms Sale to Chavez

The UK Times's Jeremy Page discusses the arrival of Hugo Chávez in Moscow today:
Hugo Chávez, the ardently anti-American President of Venezuela, arrives in Russia today to sign a billion-dollar arms deal that has infuriated and alarmed the US. The self-styled leftist revolutionary will sign an agreement with President Putin to buy 30 Sukhoi Su30 fighter jets and 30 military helicopters worth $1 billion (£540 million).

The two leaders will also discuss plans to build two Kalashnikov factories in Venezuela — to add to the 100,000 Kalashnikov AK103 assault rifles that Venezuela has bought from Russia in the past year. The arms deals — and the visit by Señor Chávez — are the latest evidence of Mr Putin’s drive to re-establish Russia as a counterbalance to the West in international affairs.
Re yesterday's meeting between Chávez and Lukashenko, Page notes that Chavez "proposed forming a 'combat team' with President Lukashenko, whom Washington calls 'Europe’s last dictator'.

Update: Apparently the deal may be worth up to $3bn, and include surface-to-air missiles and a submarine.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Chavez and Lukashenko Discuss "Strategic Alliance"

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has discussed with Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko the founding of a strategic alliance in the fields of energy, foreign policy, science, technology and agriculture, RIAN reports.

Dead End

J.R. Nyquist has a sombre prognosis for the worsening crisis in the Middle East. In particular, he points to Moscow's support for Syria and Iran:
Russia’s senior Middle East expert, Yevgeny Primakov, publicly offered his opinion that Syria and Iran “probably” did not encourage Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. As a former KGB general and head of Russia’s SVR (Foreign Intelligence), Primakov feels a protective impulse toward his Syrian and Iranian friends. The Russia alliance with Syria goes back many decades. The Syrian government buys most of its weapons from the “former” Soviet Union, and receives technical help from the Russians. At the same time, the Iranians purchased more than $1 billion worth of military equipment from Moscow. Some of these weapons are undoubtedly passed on to Hezbollah.

It is well known that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities with Russian assistance, and everyone can see that neither the United States nor Israel have bombed the Iranian nuclear industry. The United States and Israel cannot safely attack Iran without risking a larger conflict in the Middle East, including the disruption of oil flowing through the Strait of Hormuz, and an oil embargo organized simultaneously by Venezuela. Furthermore, it is believed that Iran can push Iraq’s civil strife into outright civil war. Iranian agents pepper the Shi’ite majority leadership in Iraq while Shi’ite militias stand ready to embarrass the Bush administration by demolishing the frail superstructure of Iraqi democracy.
Nyquist predicts that either Israel or the United States will eventually have no option but to bomb Iran - and the energy crisis that this is likely to precipitate will reveal the strategic dead end towards which he believes the U.S. is headed. The U.S. will suffer not a military but a financial catastrophe
due to military-related disruptions. The Iranians cannot defeat the U.S. Air Force, but they can damage the U.S. economy by triggering a financial implosion. The timing of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran depends on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. If the Israelis determine that the Iranians are dangerously close to becoming a regional nuclear power, the Israelis will insist on a strike. The United States will have to support the strike with silence, or participate in the strike – and ultimately take the consequences of a strike.

Sympathy for the Devil

David Horowitz, on why Lebanon is not innocent:
The Lebanese army has not lifted a finger to obstruct Hezbollah's aggression, but the Lebanese prime minister has been out front in attacking Israel. Who, watching the Lebanese interviewed by reporters during the war — including the Lebanese Americans evacuated to safety — can doubt that their hatred is for Jews and not for the Islamic killers of both the Jews and the Lebanese.

The last stand of Western imperialism is the patronizing attitude displayed by Western radicals and liberals toward Third World Muslims and Arabs. If Americans taught their children to murder Muslims as a quick pass to heaven, the left would regard this as a crime against humanity. But if Palestinians are the perpetrators of such crimes and Jews are the targets, it's a different story. In this case terror is the only means (and therefore the understandable means) of a "desperate" people. Jews who have been told by the leader of Iran that their extinction is imminent of course aren't desperate.

Hassan Nasrallah is not a victim, let alone a helpless one; nor is he stupid, or unaware of what he is doing. He knows just what his agenda is. "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel" he told a crowd of supporters. "I promise Israel that it will see more suicide attacks, for we will write our history with blood." His supporters responded with chants of "Death to Israel, death to America." Counseling the Israelis to lay down their arms in the face of these threats and negotiate with a movement that seeks their destruction is a not so surreptitious support for the malignant agendas themselves.

Making excuses for Lebanese appeasement of these agendas while directing moral outrage against the intended victims repeats a familiar pattern among leftist critics of America and Israel. In weighing in on the frontline battles against the terrorists in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq, critics attribute civilian casualties not to the terrorists but to their opponents; liberation and self-defense are denounced as "occupation." This is not even moral equivalence; it is sympathy for the devil.

Russia and Syria

In early June there was a series of reports - officially denied in Moscow, but confirmed from several other sources - that Russia plans to relocate its Black Sea warships from Ukraine to Syria. At the end of June, PINR discussed some of the details of the plan, noting that it involves
the installation of an air defense system with S-300PMU-2 Favorit [anti]-ballistic missiles. The missiles have a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles), allow a larger warhead and are equipped with a better guidance system than the previous version. The air defense system would be operated by Russia for the defense of the Tartus base and would provide potential protection for a large part of Syria.
Perceiving this as part of an ongoing attempt by Moscow to strengthen its political role in the Middle East, a role diminished from the days of the Soviet Union, but by no means defunct. PINR pointed out that
Russia's February 2006 meeting with Hamas is a clear example of this policy. Through that meeting, Russia tried to seize the initiative from the United States and the European Union, with the latter two's decision-making about the future of the peace process paralyzed by Hamas' election victory.
Given the present unstable situation in Lebanon, the pressure from Western public opinion for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and the corresponding need for governments to align themselves with this direction, it's likely that Moscow will start to emphasize this area of its foreign policy in international fora.

Throughout the Cold War Syria was a client state of the Soviet Union, and it is reasonable to suppose that with the Kremlin's current reversion to Cold War thinking and tactics, the relationship with Syria will once more figure high on its agenda, as Moscow seeks to weaken the efforts of the United States and Europe to find a political solution that is favourable to Western interests.

Zakayev: Negotiations Mean Mutual Compromise

Via Daymokh

Ahmed Zakayev: Negotiations mean mutual compromise

This interview of Ahmed Zakayev, the Foreign Minister of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, is presented by DAYMOHK News Agency

22 July 2006

Question: The Manifesto "For peace in Chechnya", published recently in the Chechen media, has caused some controversy. First of all, may I ask you: were the contents of this Manifesto agreed with the ChRI President?

Ahmed Zakayev: Yes, this document was cleared by the legal department of the ChRI Presidential Administration, and was approved personally by Umar Dakayev, the Head of Administration. I would like to add that, as the Foreign Minister, I am responsible only to the President, and agree all the political questions with him.

But when the statement of the Presidential Administration was published, many had an impression that it criticised some points of the Manifesto. In particular, this statement says that "some wording is unreasoned" in the Manifesto.

On the contrary, the Administration's statement itself has some unreasoned wording in it, and is a bit too emotional. Perhaps, this is because the authors of this statement do not have enough experience of political work. Only the ChRI President may give assessment to the work of the Foreign Ministry. However, these details are not very significant. In general, the Administration's statement was a reply to FSB Director Patrushev, who had offered an "amnesty" to the soldiers of ChRI Armed Forces, which is simply a propagandist farce.

The Manifesto discusses the ChRI's preparedness for peace negotiations with Russia.

It never was the position of ChRI leaders that we can defend our statehood only by military means or that we utterly reject any political negotiations. In other words, we are not at all against a peaceful conclusion of war. All our martyr presidents – Djokhar Dudayev, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, Aslan Maskhadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev – always said that the problem of Russian-Chechen relations could not be settled by war, that it was necessary to reach a political solution by negotiations. Our attitude to the problem of war is still the same, because it does not contradict our Constitution, nor, of course, our religion.

A different matter is that we are not going to "ask" Russia for negotiations anymore, because Russia takes such offers for our weakness. What is said in the Manifesto about the necessity of peaceful solution to the conflict is addressed to the Western leaders, the participants of G8 summit in St. Petersburg. But of course, we do not mind if the leaders of Russia – the country we are fighting a liberation war against – also pay attention to our proposals.

Do you believe there are conditions now for a peaceful conclusion of the war between Russia and Chechnya?

Yes. It is obvious to anybody who observes the real situation in Caucasus rather than propaganda spread by Russian television or newspapers. We have proven to the whole world, including Moscow, that we cannot be suppressed by military force and by repression. Of course, we had bitter losses in the leadership of the Resistance recently. President Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, and then Vice President Shamil Basayev, were killed. But our combatants are fighting not for personalities (although the leaders may enjoy a high authority), but for the right cause. The strength of our Resistance is that the volunteers are attracted to our Armed Forces not by names, but by ideas. If this was not true, our armed struggle would stop long ago, in 1996, with the death of Djokhar Dudayev, the first ChRI president.

Please specify, why do you think that real conditions for peace negotiations with Russia have emerged now?

To judge about the conditions for peace, we should look at each side's war objectives.

For the Chechens, the sovereignty is not the end, but the means to provide security and prosperity for the nation. This is what our leaders are saying ever since the state independence of Chechnya was restored.

In the beginning of the Second war, Putin once said that the Kremlin did not care about Chechnya's status. The most important, he said, is that Chechnya must not be a base for Russia's enemies. This means that the problem of security was the top priority for Russia.

Now we should ask ourselves: has either of the sides achieved its goals during this war? The obvious answer is no.

Unfortunately, our Armed Forces cannot fully ensure the security of the ChRI population. It suffers deliberate genocide, massacres, tortures and kidnappings conducted by the Russian militaries. The country is in ruins.

But Russia, too, with every year is getting further and further away from ensuring its security. The war has spread all over North Caucasus long ago. This year, two new fronts of the ChRI Armed Forces were created in Russia itself – the Urals Front and the Volga Front.

Therefore, we can see that the goals for which the both sides are fighting are not becoming nearer as a result of the military conflict. On the contrary, they are getting ever further. Therefore, the political solution would be logical, and the only right one. We do understand this. Undoubtedly, the responsible Russian politics, who care about their country's future, also understand this. What we need now is to overcome the ambitions and to start peace negotiations, on the basis of the real situation and the interests of our nations. We know what war is, and therefore we are always prepared for peace.

The most controversial question in the Chechen media is this. Does the formula "negotiations without preliminary conditions" mean that the ChRI leaders are prepared to abandon Chechnya's state sovereignty?

There are no reasons to question the Chechen leadership's devotedness to the idea of independence. Nobody can have such doubts about President Dokka Umarov, or about his predecessors who have sacrificed their lives for our country's freedom.

We know, and can easily predict, the unhealthy reaction of some our politicians to any peace initiative. But this is not the case for them being upset because the war is under threat. The manifesto we are talking about is not a "peace plan", nor even a governmental declaration. This document was written and published in connection with a particular political event, namely the G8 summit. As I have already said, it is addressed to the Western leaders.

If the peace negotiations with Russia start, is the Chechen side prepared to compromise?

Negotiations between two sides of a war always mean some mutual compromise. Otherwise, these are not negotiations, but an exchange of ultimatums. If the both sides start negotiations with preliminary conditions, which are tough and directly opposite to each other, such negotiations would make no sense and be simply a waste of time.

We are quite prepared to discuss with the Russian side the political contents of our sovereignty, in order to respect Russia's legitimate interests, to the extent which our Constitution and our religious convictions allow.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Placing the Blame

Let the blame fall where it belongs: on the terrorists who deliberately seek to kill enemy civilians and give their democratic enemies little choice but to kill some civilians behind whom the terrorists are hiding.

Those who condemn Israel for killing civilians - who are used as human shields and swords for the terrorists - actually cause more civilian deaths and make it harder for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
Alan Dershowitz, in the Jerusalem Post.

Chavez Begins World Tour

Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have visited the childhood home of Che Guevara in Alta Gracia, Argentina.

Chavez is at the beginning of a two-week world tour, the next stages of which will be Belarus and Russia. The dictator is also scheduled to visit Iran and Vietnam.

Zakayev at the House of Lords

Akhmed Zakayev, addressing Britain's House of Lords on July 18:
News of the death of Shamil Basaev has evoked mixed responses from around the world. I knew Shamil from the start of the first anti-Chechen war. At that time he was a fearless, tireless and ingenious commander, motivated by high ideals of freedom, independence and human rights. Although he accepted responsibility for the tragedies of Nord-Ost and Beslan, those directly involved in the hostage-taking were dozens of other young men and women.

If we want to seek an explanation, we shall have to acknowledge that these people decided to commit suicide because of the horrors in the life around them. The limitless cruelty of the Russians in Chechnya and its neighbouring republics was the main instigator both of Nord-Ost and Beslan. The crime of these people is that they mistakenly imagined that the Russian military machine could be halted if faced with the prospect of the public killing of thousands of their own civilian population or children.

There is absolutely no basis for the optimism of those who imagine that the death of Shamil Basaev will bring the conflict in the North Caucasus to an end. When that conflict began in the early 1990s nobody had heard of Shamil Basaev, because he didn’t exist. He emerged in the course of the conflict. The person we are talking about today was born in June 1995 during the events in Budyonnovsk. If the first war, which by any measure was less cruel than the present one, gave birth to Basaev, you can be quite certain that we now have hundreds of young people throughout the North Caucasus who value their own life and the lives of others no more highly than did Basaev. It is not individuals who have been radicalised, but generations. Violence is the companion of conflict, not its cause.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Today, Hizbullah forces have boasted of firing 100 rockets into Israel.

Free Thoughts posts a link to a Powerpoint slideshow which gives an illustration of what a Katyusha rocket does.

Bias at the BBC

Comparing the BBC News 24 coverage of the Middle East crisis with that of Sky News (two channels I watch here in the UK), it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the BBC is once again showing a degree of partisan bias that one - perhaps naively - might not expect from a publicly-owned corporation that's supposed to be accountable to its viewers. The BBC's reporting of the crisis seems decisively slanted against Israel, with most of the emphasis being placed on the evacuation from Lebanon of British citizens, the hardship endured by Lebanese civilians, the consequences of the Israeli bombing, and the allegedly "disproportionate" nature of the Israeli counter-offensive. There is hardly a word about the root cause of the conflict - the long-persisting murderous incursions and rocket attacks from Hizbullah, which have eroded the security of Israel's peaceful civilian population to such an extent that any country faced with a similar predicament would have to react, and react decisively. In the attitude of the BBC presenters there is a tone of barely disguised hostility towards the state of Israel and its official representatives - a tone that the medium of television reveals all too plainly.

The BBC coverage of the conflict is slanted in other ways, too. At Biased BBC, Ed Thomas documents the case of a recent statement by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The statement was reported in international media, including Reuters, and it condemned Hizbullah for using Lebanese civilians as human shields. The BBC, however, substantially altered the emphasis of the Archbishop's remarks, leading the story as
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has joined calls for the UK to press for a ceasefire in the Middle East.
As Ed Thomas shows, there were further adjustments in the original version of the BBC report - his conclusion is that "they are not responding to a changing news situation but are gerrymandering the headlines for the coming 24 hours."

On a related note, Michelle Malkin links to a blog that's sharply critical of the BBC's recently-screened report on the Israeli bombing of South Beirut,
which clearly blames Israel for destroying part of Beirut, then notes Israel’s assertion that Hezbollah centered its military planning in these civilian areas and thus had to be struck to take out legitimate military targets. The Beeb’s man fails to note how typical that is of terrorist groups–they attack civilians and then hide among them. By hiding among Lebanese civilians while attack Israeli civilians, isn’t responsibility for Beirut’s destruction on Hezbollah? Not according to the Beeb’s man in Beirut, who insists that Israel has to prove its actions were proportional to the threat.

Friday, July 21, 2006

No Joke

In the Moscow Times, Lynn Berry writes about how making jokes about Vladimir Putin could soon become a very dangerous form of entertainment in Russia:
There are no jokes about Putin, and if there were, they would be in bad taste, snapped an art historian, an old friend.

But Russians also have reason to be afraid of making fun of their president. For one thing, if a bill working its way through the parliament becomes law, slandering the president would be a crime. Political candidates and their parties could be barred from elections. Journalists could be jailed and their news organizations shut down. Even without this law, the editor of an Internet newspaper was called in for questioning and had his site closed down in May after satirizing Putin's plan to encourage families to have more children.

Basayev's Death - The Blog

A new blog discussing the subject of Shamil Basayev's death and its implications for the future of Russia's relations with Chechnya has been created as part of the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative ( The blog's introduction announces that
As part of the program, we divided into task forces discussing current global issues such as Iran or global warming. Our group, consisting of students from Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Minneapolis, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, chose the topic of Russia. With this blog and its podcast, we hope to spark international discourse and the presentation of a wide range of opinions on the topic at hand.
Today, July 21, the blog will record and present a podcast of the debate, which will then be followed by an open discussion in the comments boxes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Collapse of the Left

Melanie Phillips, on the bankruptcy of the British Left, which is now peddling imagery more reminiscent of the crude "lampoons" that characterized Soviet journalism of the 1960s,than of anything else:
The anti-Israel Guardian has lived up to its vile reputation. Its cartoonist Martin Rowson depicts a huge mailed fist with Stars of David as knuckledusters hammering down upon a bloody child while a wasp, representing Hezbollah, buzzes ineffectually around.

This loathsome image accurately conveys the disgusting mindset of the British left: that Israel is a brutal and gigantic oppressor, that Hezbollah is a minor irritant and that Iran and Syria are simply not in the picture at all. Furthermore, by using Stars of David it also crosses the (mythical) line between ‘criticism of Israel’ and vilification of the Jewish people and takes its place in the hideous pantheon of Judeophobic images.

Russia Ready for Nuclear Tests

Last week Russia's defence minister Sergei Ivanov announced plans for the deployment in Russia of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, citing the necessity for these as a means to counter what he called foreign "blackmail" - widely interpreted as a reference to the United States.

Now, AP reports that during a visit to Russia's nuclear test site on the Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, Ivanov has also announced that Russia is ready to resume nuclear weapons testing at any time, if countries that have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty do so. Only 34 countries have signed the treaty. Those that have not include China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel and the United States.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No Identity

It's reported that Russian authorities have failed to identify what is alleged to be the body of Shamil Basayev.

Amsterdam on the Rosneft IPO

In the UK Times, Derek Brower interviews Robert Amsterdam, lawyer of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman who was recently sentenced to 9 years' imprisonment in a labour camp for defying the will of the Kremlin. Rosneft, the giant Russian oil and gas company, is launching its $11 billion IPO (initial public offering) on the London stock exchange this week, and Amsterdam has some unambiguous words of warning:
The Kremlin is attempting, according to Amsterdam, to “whitewash Khodorkovsky’s history, his phoney criminal prosecution and the history of Yukos”. The IPO is nothing less than “state theft” and anyone buying stock will be colluding in a climate of impunity that allows the Kremlin to operate with little regard for international law.


The morality argument might not wash with hard-nosed investors, but the “dangerous precedent” of this IPO is a threat to any other investor in Russia, claims Amsterdam. By prosecuting the Yukos case, which was based on retroactive tax claims against the company, and proceeding with the flotation, Amsterdam says that the Kremlin has “taken away any security of property” in the country.
(hat tip: Jeremy Putley)



A London High Court judge refused on July 18 to grant a judicial review or injunction on behalf of the embattled Russian oil company Yukos regarding the initial public offering (IPO) of Rosneft on the London Stock Exchange, Britain's "Financial Times" reported on July 19 (see "Russia: Rosneft's Successful Gamble,", July 13, 2006). The decision enabled Rosneft shares to begin unconditional trading in London as well as Moscow on July 19. Yukos challenged the IPO on the grounds that 70 percent of Rosneft's value came from the forced sale of Yukos' core assets and that the flotation is tantamount to money laundering under U.K. law, RIA Novosti reported. PM

(RFE/RL Newsline, July 19 2006)

Chechnya: Tanks In Village Streets

From the Prague Watchdog (my tr.):
Caterpillar armour now moves through village streets in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – The July 4 ban on the movement of federal caterpillar armour along asphalt-surfaced roads in Chechnya has made the military move it through the streets of populated areas.

According to information received from a resident of the village of Prigorodnoye, Groznensky district, Russian soldiers recently "took over" the streets of this populated area for moving their caterpillar armoured vehicles. As the man asserts, caterpillar-mounted armour is being moved almost daily through the streets of the village, causing extreme disturbance to the local residents.

"Recently Russian soldiers travelling to and from Khankala (the main Russian military base in Chechnya) in caterpillar armoured vehicles have been moving them exclusively through the streets of our village.

People are extremely worried and angry about it", says Musa, a 40-year-old Prigorodnoye resident. "Children are playing in our streets, people are walking in them, and then a BMP (infantry fighting vehicle) or whatever comes charging along!"

"What's more, the constant movement of armour has led to the roads in our village being almost completely ruined. Driving along them in a passenger car is already getting to be a problem, and when the rains come all we'll have left here are some ruts and potholes," he says.

"I don't know where the military command were looking when they issued this order. In order to preserve the asphalt on the roads, they're creating problems for the human beings! Is it really impossible for these soldiers just to stay in their barracks and stop rushing to and fro in armoured vehicles, especially since they're constantly saying that the war in Chechnya is over?"

It should be recalled that at a meeting with the heads of law enforcement agencies held on July 3, Ramzan Kadyrov, Premier of the Moscow-backed Chechen government, spoke of the need to restrict the movement of military armour along municipal streets.

"There have been no military operations in the republic for a long time, and the unwarranted movement of military equipment must be restricted," Kadyrov said. "The question of the observance of social law and order concerns everyone in the Chechen Republic."

On the following day (July 4) the military commandant of the republic, General Grigory Fomenko issued an order banning the movement of military caterpillar armour along asphalt-surfaced roads. According to this instruction, armoured vehicles mounted on tracks must be moved solely along country roads or along the sides of asphalted main roads.

In addition, it was stipulated that in cases where it was necessary for military caterpillar armour to be brought in for carrying out urgent tasks, the commanders of the Russian military units stationed in Chechnya must come to an agreement on this question with local administrative and police heads. At the same time, the order
established a single route for the movement of both military and civilian caterpillar-mounted equipment throughout the entire territory of Chechnya.

Translated by David McDuff.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"There Is Always Israel"

'When nothing else works, there is always Israel!" This is how the late Egyptian journalist Lutfi al-Khuli liked to describe the motto of Arab radicalism decades ago. The analysis was apt because the Arab obsession with Israel did work on countless occasions.
Amir Taheri, writing in the Jerusalem Post on why trying to use war to divert attention away from their problems may not work for Iran, Syria and Hizbullah.

Help for Russia's NGOs

Cherie Blair, human rights lawyer and wife of Britain's prime minister, is to offer free legal aid to Russian NGOs which are challenging the recently introduced law that restricts their work. The UK Times says that
She began the meeting yesterday by saying that she had informed the other leaders’ wives, including Lyudmila Putin, that she was going to meet some NGOs.

“I know the organisations here represent a broad spectrum of the kind of work civil society is doing in Russia — issues in relation to tolerance, to mutual respect and, of course, ensuring that the state fulfils its human rights obligations,” she said.

- - - - - -

Reporters were denied access to the rest of the meeting, and Mrs Blair’s only comments afterwards were that it had been very interesting. But participants said that she had expressed particular interest in the new law, under which NGOs must re-register with a new regulatory body that can shut them if it deems them a threat to national security.

Yuri Schmidt, a lawyer who defended Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon who is in jail, said that he had told Mrs Blair that Russia was not a democracy. “We have an authoritarian regime here,” he said. “There is no separation of powers. The Kremlin rules the country. The Duma is a rubber-stamp body and there is no real discussion there.”

Among the participants were representatives of the most famous human rights groups in Russia, including Memorial and the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Friends Extradited - VI

An article in the FT pinpoints the real reason for the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the 2003 US-UK extradition treaty:
The prime minister’s push last week for ratification succeeded in boosting the profile of the issue in Washington and increased optimism among its supporters that the pact would be approved this year.

Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, quickly announced he would hold a hearing on Wednesday, the first public attention to the matter on Capitol Hill since a November 2005 session.

Nevertheless, groups such as the Irish American Unity Conference and the Ancient Order of Hibernians fear the treaty will enable the UK to prosecute Irish-Americans who support separatists in Northern Ireland.

Francis A. Boyle, law professor at the University of Illinois, said: “The text of this treaty is primarily designed to go after the Irish-American community” which opposes the “continued illegal British colonial presence in Northern Ireland”.

He will testify against the treaty before the foreign relations committee, along with several supporters of the pact, including officials from the US departments of state and justice.

Mr Boyle, an outspoken critic of President Bush, says the new treaty violates the rights of Irish-American citizens and fails to protect people who express support for northern Irish independence.

The existing treaty, which dates from the early 1970s and was supplemented in 1985, protected such people by including exemptions for certain categories of “political offences.” But the new treaty, Mr Boyle will tell the Senate, eliminates these protections “in all but name”.

Mr Boyle says Irish-American lobbying groups and citizens “will oppose this treaty to the death”.
Update: It seems that the ratification issue is to receive priority treatment after all.

Chavez To Visit Belarus

Hugo Chavez will make an official visit to Belarus on July 22-24 at Lukshenko's invitation, RIAN reports.

Putin Wants Zakayev Extradited From U.K.

According to a RIAN report, Putin has told the G8 that he wants ChRI foreign minister Akhmed Zakayev extradited from the United Kingdom. In a statement remarkable for its open hypocrisy, Putin announced that
some countries had complicated legal systems and many criminal elements embroiled in terrorism used them to "destroy civilized countries and those fundamental principles on which today's civilization of democratic countries is founded."
Via chechnya-sl, where Mikael Storsjö has a critical response:
A lie repeated enough times becomes truth, as all alert observants of the Chechen fight have noticed in the Western society and media.

This became the fate of Shamil Basayev, who got a reputation of being the most notorious "terrorist" in Caucasus, although his unethical deeds caused fewer corpses among innocents than the Russian terror killed civilians, children and women already in Basaev's own family, not to speak about the 200.000+ of other victims.

According to Russian demagogy, Zakaev is also a terrorist. Every now and then we can read this statement in Russian media, soon it will become a legitimate statement in the West too. The power of Russian propaganda shall not be underestimated.
Mikael wants the evidence - if there is evidence - to be made public:
The accusations against Zakaev are apparently public documents? Does anybody have copy of these documents and "video footage". It might have a healthy impact upon media and Russian efforts if this material could be published comprehensively.

Probably there will be no proof at all regarding any guilt of Zakaev, but instead a revealing study of Russian justice in Putin's Russia.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Forest Fires in Estonia

Postimees reports that Finland is sending a 25-man firefighting team to Estonia to help to put out the forest fire at Agusalu, in the east of the country, not far from Lake Peipsi near the Russian border. The forest blaze is at present out of control. Other forest fires have broken out in recent days. 13 fires were being countered by Estonian firefighting teams yesterday - 5 of the fires have been put out, and work is proceeding on the 8 others today.

Syria Threatens Firm Response

From AP and Jerusalem Post:

Syria's government on Sunday promised Israel a firm and immediate retaliation for any possible attack on its territory.

"Any aggression against Syria will be met with a firm and direct response whose timing and methods are unlimited," Syria's official news agency quoted Information Minister Mohsen Bilal as saying.

Israel earlier accused Syria and Iran of supporting Hizbullah.

Meanwhile, martial law has been declared in Northern Israel.

Grad, Katyusha, Fajar

The Jerusalem Post reports that following the rocket attack on Haifa more rockets have hit Israel's coastal cities, from Nahariya to Haifa.

The weaponry used by Hezbollah does not hide its provenance - the "Grad" (Russian for "hail") missiles have an old Soviet lineage, as do the Katyushas.

There is also the Iranian-made Fajar-3 missile.

Israel's transportation minister Shaul Mofaz has stated that the rocket which hit the train station in Haifa and killed eight people was made in Syria.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Divide Deepens

The divide between Moscow and Washington over the current crisis in the Middle East is deepening:
There is a growing chasm in the international community watching the crisis unfold. President George Bush yesterday angrily rounded on Hizbollah for starting the violence and demanded Syria intervene.

At a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in St Petersburg, he said: 'In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place.' Bush, visibly angry, added: 'And that's because Hizbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. The best way to stop the violence is for Hizbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking. And therefore, I call on Syria to exert influence over Hizbollah.'

The Left and the Right

There's an interesting discussion in Frontpage Magazine between Jamie Glazov, David Horowitz, Norman Geras and Nick Cohen on the subject of the possible evolution of a "new" New Left. One of the points of interest in the debate is the clearly evident barrier of communication between Right and Left, with Glazov and Horowitz apparently unable to comprehend the position of their interlocutors, who believe that there's a Left that has not historically aligned itself with, or supported, totalitarianism, and who have written a manifesto to promote that point of view.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of understanding is the fact that for so many decades the vast majority of left-aligned politicians, journalists and debaters in the West supported the cause of Western nuclear disarmament. In 2001, Christopher Hitchens wrote:
There's no pleasing some people, but as a charter supporter of the nuclear disarmament campaign, I can remember a time when the peace movement was not an auxiliary to dictators and aggressors in trouble. Looking at some of the mind-rotting tripe that comes my way from much of today's left, I get the impression that they go to bed saying: What have I done for Saddam Hussein or good old Slobodan or the Taliban today?
The problem is that by supporting the nuclear disarmament campaign, the Western Left acted as an auxiliary to some very nasty dictators and aggressors indeed - the ones in the Kremlin. And it's the Left's inability today to come to terms with that past and that responsibility which makes it hard to believe in the possibility of a Left that will no longer take such options.

This is really the point that Glazov and Horowitz are making, though it's never actually stated in the discussion.

Israel Issues Ultimatum To Syria

According to Haaretz, Israel has taken a decisive step in the new conflict that is breaking out in the Middle East:

The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday that Israel issued an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to which a regional war would erupt within 72 hours if Damascus does not prevent Hezbollah attacks.

According to the report, a Pentagon source said that if Syria does not try to influence Hezbollah, Israel could bomb essential installations in Syria. The source neither confirmed nor denied rumors that Israel had given Damascus 72 hours to comply with international demands.

Friends Extradited - V

The Friends Extradited website has the latest press coverage of the NatWest Three, now in Texas facing trial, but granted a week's bail. From the U.K. Times:
They must return to court on Friday, where Judge Stephen Smith will hear more arguments from the US Justice Department and the men’s lawyers before ruling whether they will be free to return to Britain before their trial begins on September 11.

The three were wearing casual dress rather than the green jumpsuits, chains and shackles with which the state of Texas usually adorns those passing through its law enforcement system. During last night’s hearing Leo Wise, one of the US Government prosecutors, told Judge Smith that the three had “absolutely no ties” to the US and represented a serious flight risk.

He said that the Government proposed a package of bail conditions including residence in Texas, electronic tagging, a lien to be placed on each of the former bankers’ homes, and each to put up a “significant amount of cash” as a bond.

Creations of the KGB

"Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaida are creations of the KGB."

- Akhmed Zakayev

July 6, 2006

Britain "continues to oppress our mothers and children, brothers and sisters from the east to the west in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya."

London bomber Shehzad Tanweer (on video)

July 10 2006

Death of Shamil Basayev
On July 9, the day before his reported death, the separatist website posted a statement from Basaev expressing the “enormous gratitude” of “the mujahideen of the Caucasus” toward “those who destroyed the diplomat-spies in Iraq” and calling the murder of the five Russian embassy employees in Iraq a “worthy response” to “the murder by Russian terrorists” of former Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Qatar in February 2004. The Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq claimed responsibility for the killing of the five Russians.
(Chechnya Weekly, July 14)

July 11 2006

Mumbai bombings, in which at least 200 people died and over 700 were injured.
India suspects that operatives from Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) are behind the train bombings. Pakistan has long been a client state of the People's Republic of China, which in turn is strategically allied with Moscow.

Once Upon a Time in the West

July 12 2006

Hezbollah attack on Israel

See AIA's Michael Elbaz's study of The Great Secret of Russian Middle Eastern Policy, which among other things gives a history of the relations between Russia and the Shiite religious leadership in Lebanon.

July 12 2006

Al-Qaeda-linked Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq eulogizes Basayev

“As Emir Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid al-Ghambi were killed before him, Basaev is considered one of many within a ‘prolific’ nation, the Russians and ‘apostates’ are warned to not find happiness in his death.” (Chechnya Weekly, July 14)

July 13 2006

The Russian newspaper Izvestia claims that "a tiny transmitting antenna had been placed in a piece of plastic explosives that was part of a weapons shipment, which originated in Iraq and arrived in Ingushetia via Turkey and Georgia. According to the newspaper, the entire operation was assisted by U.S. forces in Iraq and neither employed—nor required the placement of—any agents within Basaev’s inner circle." (Chechnya Weekly, July 14)